Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mapping genes of a horse from 700,000 years ago - Full Article

Originally published: June 26, 2013 1:03 PM
Updated: June 26, 2013 1:14 PM
By The Associated Press MALCOLM RITTER (AP Science Writers), SETH BORENSTEIN (AP Science Writers)

HELSINKI - (AP) -- From a tiny fossil bone found in the frozen Yukon, scientists have deciphered the genetic code of an ancient horse about 700,000 years old -- nearly 10 times older than any other animal that has had its genome mapped.

Scientists used new techniques and computing to take DNA from a 5-inch fossil fragment -- most of which was contaminated with more modern bacteria -- and get a good genetic picture of an ancestral horse. The work was published Wednesday in the journal Nature and discussed at a science conference in Helsinki.

The research gives a better insight into the evolution of one of the most studied mammals. Perhaps more importantly, it opens up new possibilities for mapping the genetic blueprints of all sorts of ancient animals from early human ancestors to mastodons to mammoths to bison, said study lead authors Ludovic Orlando and Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen.

This "is breaking the time barrier," Willerslev said.

The previous oldest animal fossil genetically mapped had been an ancient relative of Neanderthals called the Denisovans, from about 75,000 years ago, found in a Siberian cave...

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